The Mission Continues

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

April 18, 2021 – Third Sunday of Easter - Luke 24:35-48

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We continue to hear accounts in the gospel of the life of Jesus after his resurrection. They are often called “appearances” but there’s a danger in such a description. That’s because we might interpret them as akin to ghost stories, something even Luke, the gospel’s author, was aware of. Jesus is not portrayed as a kind of mystery figure who comes and goes. (Like now you see him. Now you don’t.) If you read today’s gospel carefully, you will notice that Jesus meets these disciples as actively present, as a teacher, as someone who is very much involved in their lives, even after his resurrection.

In the church of my youth, there was a large stained glass window depicting God in heaven. From catechism class I learned that there were three persons in God. This window showed me how they were in heaven. Two God persons were seated side by side overlooking the congregation from their heavenly vantage point. God the Father had a beard and looked like a kindly grandfather. The Son sat next to him, clearly looking like Jesus as he was commonly portrayed in the art of that time. The Holy Spirit was shown as a dove emanating golden rays. It was all very impressive to my eight-year-old imagination. But it was dangerously misleading because it gave the impression that God was then just sitting on a heavenly throne, watching the game of life that the rest of us were involved in.

Back to today’s gospel. Jesus appears to two of his disciples who are described as being confused to say the least. Jesus comes to clarify matters for them. He talks to them as a good teacher and he even eats with them as a sign of their solidarity. The disciples share their questions and confusion and after listening to them, Jesus helps their understanding. In all of this Jesus is not sitting on a throne in heaven. He’s back on earth, continuing his effort to bring sight to the blind and clarity to the confused.

During this Easter Season, we might be tempted to think that the life and work of Jesus is basically over. That Jesus is now at rest and inviting you and me to continue his work by ourselves. But that’s not how it is. Jesus is just as active today as he was when he physically walked on the Earth doing good. And when he appeared to his first disciples, helping them to understand the amazing truth of their lives. Of course, if we are not aware of this continued presence and work of Jesus, we will likely not be attentive to his directions that come to us every day in the most ordinary circumstances of our lives. A reminder: these directives often come through the people we encounter each day in our families, our friends and neighbors.      

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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